Buffy 5×08: Shadow

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury | Director: Daniel Attias | Aired: 11/21/2000]

While “Shadow” is no “Fool for Love” [5×07] , it is still a solid episode that moves character and plot threads forward in a compelling way. We’ve got Riley’s continued lack of emotional connection with Buffy and increasing isolation, Glory’s hunt for the Key, Joyce’s brain tumor, and Spike’s continued infatuation with everything Buffy. Nothing major really happens here and the pacing is a bit on the slow side occasionally, but otherwise I feel this episode succeeds at its goals.

I think I’ll start off with Glory, or more specifically her minions. The elaborate way they praise her in their wordage is extremely entertaining. It’s important to note that while this minion, Dregg, is explaining he got this rare and old incantation, all Glory cares about is how her ankle looks with a certain pair of shoes on. When she tosses the shoe off her foot and into the minion’s head he amusingly says, “Ow! Thank you.” It’s obvious here more than ever that Glory’s biggest weaknesses are her obsession with herself and her utter stupidity. These two things playing hand-in-hand, along with the fact she’s sharing a body with Ben, work to counteract her incredible strength which is why she is never able to do all that much damage. If she’d just get over herself and do everything herself she’d be much more formidable. She’s very impatient too: “everything takes time! What about my time?! Does anyone appreciate that I’m on a schedule here?” I think at this point Glory’s a unique blend of weirdness that BtVS hasn’t seen before, and I like it. I’m amazed I even felt a tiny bit sad for her when she was looking out her window, all lonesome, for the cobra demon to return.

While all the drama at the hospital takes place, Spike gets caught by Riley in Buffy’s room, smelling her clothes. It’s amazing really just how good Spike is at deflecting a conversation on him to the other person. Riley says, “what are you doing here?” Spike replies, “What, me? I was um … uh … what are you doing here?” He then freely admits he smelled her sweater, but slyly calls it a “predator thing.” That he’s “wetting the appetite for the hunt.” Then he hilariously sticks his head into her sweater and starts smelling it strongly, twice. Riley’s had enough and finally throws him out, but not before Spike amusingly snags some Buffy panties. I really don’t feel I need to think about what he’s going to do with those!

Anyway, downstairs Spike gives Riley the lowdown on Buffy’s feelings towards him, although he leaves out just enough details to make it look like something it is very much, well, not. Spike gets a whole lot of juicy attacks on Riley here, like “Your girl in the habit of buying her enemies drinks? ‘Cause she spent the better part of last night with me, doing just that.” Riley scoffs and Spike continues, “Twice in recent memory, she’s had the lover-wiccas do a deinvite on the house. Keep out specific vamps. Ever ask yourself why she’s never taken my name off the guest list?” Responding, Riley claims that it’s “because you’re harmless.” This is when Spike really brings it home: “Oh yeah, right. (scoffs) Takes one to know, I suppose. Least I still got the attitude. What do you got, a piercing glance? Face it, white bread. Buffy’s got a type, and you’re not it. She likes us dangerous, rough, occasionally bumpy in the forehead region. (patronizingly) Not that she doesn’t like you, but sorry Charlie, you’re just not dark enough.” It’s interesting that Buffy also didn’t tell Riley about being at the hospital with her mom.

To add even more salt to Riley’s wounds, there’s the adorable scene between Riley and Dawn at the carousel. While Riley appreciates it when Dawn thanks him for being there with her, her rambling about Angel turns out to make him feel worse again. Dawn points out that Buffy doesn’t cry as much around Riley as she did with Angel and that she “doesn’t get all worked up like that over you.” I can understand why Riley sees this as a bad thing. He views it as meaning Buffy simply isn’t as invested in him as she was with Angel. All of this evidence combined with his recent relationship frustrations obviously convince Riley that maybe Spike has a point. What Riley is completely missing in all of this is that Buffy really does like who he is. Sure she’s drawn to the darkness a bit because of her slayer nature, but that doesn’t mean she outright wants a vampire. Riley is expecting more from their relationship than it is right now, and I think he really fails to realise this.

Xander calls Riley on his risky behavior in “Fool for Love” [5×07] in a “I really want to help you” way, but it unfortunately doesn’t stop him from letting Sandy get some vamp action on him. It’s pretty obvious that Riley is now, at least somewhat, convinced that Buffy really does want darkness in her man, and so here he tests the waters to see what it’s like; to try to find out what the draw is. I sympathise with Riley, I really do, but I can’t help but feel he’s acting really childishly in the way he’s expressing his frustrations. This is made all the more clear when he actually looks offended when Buffy doesn’t break down in front of him at the hospital and even more so later when Joyce calls her in and he looks all pouty. I really feel Buffy’s only fault, at least during her mom’s crisis, is not using basic kind mannerisms like “excuse me” and “thank you for all your help” to Riley. I feel the need to give props to more wonderful acting from SMG, with those painful-to-see watery eyes and expressions in a lot of these doctor/Riley scenes.

Although Riley gets plenty of attention here, the core of the episode surrounds Joyce’s hospital visit and Buffy’s reactions to dealing with a crisis she can’t fix. Joyce tells Buffy that the doctors found something in her cat scan. This is a moving little scene with Joyce even getting a little weepy. Buffy’s holding her cool here surprisingly well. When the doctor later tells her that her mom has a brain tumor, though, SMG shows us some wonderfully subtle acting as we see Buffy get that powerfully expressive scared/sad/shocked blend on her face. A more extreme version of that same look arrives again when the doctor explains “nearly one out of three patients with this condition does just fine.”

Wow this is really sad stuff, and Buffy can’t do a thing about it; she’s completely helpless. This is more difficult than usual for her because instead of having an outlet for her emotions (as in, an enemy), she is forced to feel these waves of awful emotions. It’s hard for her to hear, but Riley’s correct when he says, “people get sick. I don’t think magic…” This is why when Buffy hears of the cobra demon she wants to run out and fight it immediately. It finally gives her a tangible outlet to take her mind off her mom’s illness. It’s great to see that Xander picks up on this as well when he tells Riley, “Buffy needs something she can fight, something she can solve.”

The only real problems with this episode lie with its bad special effects and occasionally slow pace. In particular, the cobra demon is really lacking in scariness and believability; they just did a bad job on this one. The CGI Buffy riding the back of the demon somehow manages to be even more ridiculous-looking than the demon itself. It’s rare I say something looked awful on this series, but that brief bit of CGI really did. Those problems aside, this is an arc episode that addresses several necessary developing character themes in a fairly solid way; a good, but not great, episode.

Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Buffy and Dawn’s continued closeness established in “No Place Like Home” [5×05] .
+ The little things: Giles excited about his new ad in the Yellow Pages, Tara telling him his tagline is hard to read, and Anya straightening objects on her way into the shop.
+ It is really quite entertaining how Glory buys some items at the Magic Box and interacts with Giles so amicably. I love Anya’s increasingly louder ‘heys’ when she finds out about the items sold.
+ It’s nice to see the main villain actively trying to achieve her goal this early in the season.
+ Buffy describing the cobra demon as “not Mayor big.” This kind of continuity is also useful to the plot, very cool.


* All of Riley’s frustrations are obviously leading to something, and we all know in retrospect its his departure in “Into the Woods” [5×10].




50 thoughts on “Buffy 5×08: Shadow”

  1. [Note: Rick posted this comment on August 27, 2006.]

    I’d have to agree that Riley expects a little more from his relationship with Buffy than is plausible. He wants the passion and obsession that Buffy had with Angel; however, such limerance is not a normal component of everyday relationships after, say, the first year. Because Riley does not believe this, he makes more of a little distance between him and Buffy than he should. In fact, I would go as far to say that he is unreasonable, albeit understandably unreasonable. Unfortunately, my sympathies must lie with Buffy in this issue. She is, after all, the one who has to deal with a mom who might be dying, a mystical sister who is being pursued by a superlatively strong God, and a day (or should I say night) job that is always life threatening and becoming an even greater aspect of who she is as an individual.
    All I can really say is that it is a shame that Riley leaves. I think that he and Buffy could have been the real deal. They had chemistry, similar interests, and a caring relationship. The passion was perhaps a little lacking, but is passion not the sign of a schoolgirl, biologically-driven crush?


  2. [Note: Rick posted this comment on August 27, 2006.]

    As a side note, one must remember that Riley doesn’t have a lot of side concerns. His life revolves around Buffy; thus, he only naturally expects hers to revolve around him, which is simply an impossible expectation at this juncture for Buffy. And don’t get me wrong, Buffy has fault in this. She does not show much gratitude for Riley and has cut herself off a bit much. But by having the issue exposed in the manner it was exposed (Buffy seeing Riley get sucked on by a vampwhore) and then forcing a ridiculous ultimatum unto Buffy before she can rationally assess the situation and the role/components of her relationship with him, Riley takes most of the blame for this mess! In my books anyways.


  3. [Note: dingdong posted this comment on August 27, 2006.]

    Although not up to the standard of the two episodes which follow it, this episode carries some very nice set-up. The foreshadowing is good and the feeling of death springing from Joyce’s illness. Some regard this as a lame storyline, but it’s one of my favourites, giving Buffy something she can’t phisically fight, and is forced to accept.


  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 27, 2006.]

    Very fascinating observations about real relationships and passion Rick. It’s very, very rare that a long-lasting relationship retains the kind of passion it may have had early on. I think Riley is also forgetting how ‘into’ him Buffy was the previous year, even unintentionally pushing her friends away for him.

    I agree with you, that these two really could have had a solid, long-lasting relationship if they’d properly worked out their issues. I was also sad to see the relationship end. I always found them an intriguing couple, as rare as that is in the Buffy fandom.


  5. [Note: Jerry posted this comment on August 27, 2006.]

    I often wonder if Buffy was so ‘into’ Riley in season 4 because of The Intitiative and the feelings of being important that his group provided for her. But thats beside the point. I agree that its a shame that Riley leaves, but I think it has much more to do with a misunderstanding that Riley has about Buffy, the idea that she needs some monster in her man. Crush should have cured Riley of this idea, but as he becomes even more the common Joe, his insecurities begin to fester more and more. I agree with Rick, Riley takes most of the blame from me, but I do believe its understandable. In a way, his relationship devolves because he shares something with Buffy, a failure to communicate and understand others point of view. Great review Mike, agreed on the score.


  6. [Note: Peter posted this comment on August 28, 2006.]

    My feeling with Riley was that he really needed a job of his own, get out of the house and do something useful.

    Disgraceful CGI that snake was a shocker


  7. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on August 28, 2006.]

    I don’t like Riley, because he’s always in competititon with everyone. He wants that Buffy gets as worked up over him (is she 17. or what) as over Angel, he wants to be as strong as her, have as much endurance in bed as her, and isn’t able to adress his issues with her earlier (and finally just leaves her heartbroken…)

    plus, get a job, boy…


  8. [Note: Kyarorin posted this comment on August 29, 2006.]

    Well, you have to give Riley some credit. Buffy completely shuts him out, which isn’t supposed to happen in a relationship. I wouldn’t have been able to last as long as he did without speaking up about it. Buffy never tells him anything, she pretty much uses him for her convenience, and she doesn’t even notice until Xander forces the idea onto her. I couldn’t help but be on Riley’s side on this, even though his vampire biting thing was a bit moronic on his part. And yeah, he did need a job or something.

    But yeah, pretty much agreed with the review on this one. I loved that Glory actually interacted with them and they had no idea that she was the big bad. That isn’t something that usually happens.


  9. [Note: AthenaMuze posted this comment on August 29, 2006.]

    I absolutely disagree that Buffy and Riley could have had a good relationship beyond what they had. Sure, I was sad when he left, but after thinking about it, I realized it just could not have worked. Being the big strong man was Riley’s thing, he needs a woman who does not emasculate him and who needs him on some level. The fact that Buffy admittedly did not go to him for emotional support was another example that she didn’t need him (and the fact that Spike knew more was just salt in the wound), and I’m sure that was the last straw for him. And he has a point. If she didn’t need him to be a big strong man and she didn’t need him emotionally, then she really wasn’t that invested in him. They had a sweet thing but it was never going to work. She did not respect him enough, and he couldn’t stand to be with a woman who is physically stronger and simply more effective at the things he calls his career. With Sam he was much more on par and it works.


  10. [Note: bookworm posted this comment on August 30, 2006.]

    yeah, but the problem is, that Riley has to be able to win the competition. that’s his thing. with Sam he didn’t have a proble, because she was under him in the hirachy, not much stronger than him and he had the heads up with deomon fighting. Buffy was just better in everything than him, he was very competitve and couldn’t win one.

    and if you notice your girlfriend is shut down, you speak up and yell at her, you make her feel bad, just to feel better, you don’t duck and hide (chicken), and you certainly don’t start a thing with some vampire trolls.


  11. [Note: Austin posted this comment on August 29, 2007.]

    I think that in hindsight we can see that it is not going to work when Riley boasts in S4 about bagging 17 hostiles, and then gets the wind completely taken out of his sails when he hers how many (hundreds?) Buffy has killed. My opinion on their relationship is that while it never would have worked in the long run, it was exactly what Buffy needed after Angel and to a lesser extent, Parker: a somewhat normal guy who would be there for her.


  12. [Note: Nix posted this comment on November 11, 2007.]

    I think it’s probably more than hundreds. We see her kill a hundred-plus vampires in the course of the series, and that’s one day every two weeks, approximately, with most kills even on those days not shown.

    So make that *thousands*. Riley’s kill count is excellent for evenly matched opponents, better than all but the best WWI fighter aces managed, for instance: but Buffy leaves him absolutely in the dust. The Slayer is a *much* better fighter than all but the smartest vampires, and a good bit stronger than most: combine the two with experience, the Thousand Extra Lives trick (even if most Slayers fail fast, some won’t by sheer statistics), and, of course, the power of Author (it wouldn’t do for Buffy to get offed in the second season) and you get something nearly unstoppable.


  13. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 12, 2007.]

    I always thought Riley needed a hobby after S4. His life is centered around Buffy, which is not of the good. While she may have been able to give him all the attention he wanted in the past year, now she’s dealing with me mother’s illness, her sister, Glory, etc. She can’t have him at the center of her universe.

    Riley’s a guy who needs to be in charge of things, and when he’s relegated to a supporting role he doesn’t know what to do. I cringe whenever I watch the scene at the end of this episode. I have an urge to smack Riley when he gets visibly upset over Buffy NOT crying.


  14. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on November 22, 2007.]

    I like this episode a lot. What brings the episode down a little for me is the snake. Bad CGI effects, the snake looks fake. But the rest is amazing and I have to agree with all of the previous comments about Riley. I mean, Buffy has some fault in the matter but I think Riley just can´t let go of his manner: he wants to be the strong one for the girl, he wants to be in charge and when that doesn´t work, he flips out.


  15. [Note: Jaden posted this comment on May 11, 2008.]

    ive got to disagree with what you said about the cgi here. the cgi of snake slithering down the high street especially looked awesome and though the close ups of the snake may have looked less-than-smooth they were solid enough to make me beleive them!


  16. [Note: Richie posted this comment on January 2, 2009.]

    Jaden – That said, did you see SMG pummeling the snake right at the end of the eposide? It was bouncing back at her, thus loudly broadcasting ‘I am made of rubber’! Bad snake, but an entertaining episode with some great acting and lovely moments, particularly from Spike and SMG. Man, I love season 5!


  17. [Note: Emily posted this comment on May 25, 2009.]

    I completely disagree with people who say that Riley’s behavior is “understandable.” It’s *not* understandable. I can’t stand people who think the whole world should revolve around them. And since Riley’s status is now loser- no school, no work, maybe some friends to play ball with but that’s about it- Buffy pretty much is his whole world. Get off your ass, man!! Get a job,back off when Buffy needs you to, and be there when she needs you to! Sometimes people just need their space, and when you extend that rule to Buffy- well, she needs more space than most people. If he doesn’t want that, then stop moping around and leave (which he thankfully does in “Into the Woods”)! Jeez, he’s so damn annoying by now that I agree with gabrielleabelle- I just want to smack him already.


  18. [Note: Sam posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    I realize that the writers can get away with playing Spike’s ever-increasing stalker-ish behavior for laughs because the chip in his head is preventing him from causing actual harm. Still, I am really creeped out by him sneaking into Buffy’s room, sniffing her clothes and stealing her panties. That’s just disturbing. Who else is with me?


  19. [Note: Paula posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Sam, you do recall Spike’s a vampire, right? Of course his behavior is fairly disturbing; it’s supposed to be.


  20. [Note: Miscellaneopolan posted this comment on December 1, 2009.]

    I think there was fault on both sides of the Buffy-Riley equation. I agree with much of what has been said: passion doesn’t last a whole relationship through, and for Riley to expect that out of Buffy was a bit much. Still, Buffy did keep him at a distance emotionally. Relationships aren’t all-passion-all-the-time, but as a relationship develops the couple should feel comfortable enough to confide in each other. Buffy never really did that for Riley. I wonder if things would have been different if, upon finding out that Dawn was the key, Buffy told Riley about it. Couples need things that bind them together, and Buffy and Riley simply didn’t have much.

    I think the relationship could have worked. I think it probably would have worked if Buffy had caught that helicopter at the end of Into the Woods, but then there wouldn’t be drama and we can’t have that. This episode also highlights a side of Riley that neither Angel or Spike can ever hope to have: potential as a father. That scene he has with Dawn, on top of being really sweet, would be impossible for Angel or Spike. They’re out in the sun and Riley’s watching over Dawn like a father would a daughter. Of course, Buffy wasn’t even close to thinking about a family at this point in the series, but it’s something to think about.

    Eh, Buffy belongs with Xander anyway. πŸ™‚ Good episode.


  21. [Note: Aisha posted this comment on May 25, 2010.]

    While Buffy did have a lot to deal with at the time and while Riley probably needed to find something else (besides letting a vampire suck his blood) with which to occupy his time, Buffy did take him for granted. I personally saw in their relationship that he was a convenience. When all she had was the Initiative and Adam to deal with, Riley neatly fit into that world. Riley was also a welcome for Buffy relief from Angel and Parker, but I don’t believe she ever really opened up to him as with Angel and tried to do with Parker. She treats him no differently in Season 5, but there are just more dire circumstances in Buffy’s life that bring the lack of foundation to their relationship to light. Buffy does not share with him that Dawn is the Key and does not include him in plans to go after Glory nor does she confide in him about her mother’s illness. I am not saying that Buffy did not have a lot on her plate, but she claims to love Riley and I would think she would need the person she loves for support. She doesn’t seem to need him at all.


  22. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on June 12, 2010.]

    Anybody else notice that Sandy appears back in Dopplegangland? She’s the girl vamp Willow feeds on in the Bronze. Some nice subtle contiunity there.


  23. [Note: Jason posted this comment on August 30, 2010.]

    Between feeling protective for Dawn (who I’m just super-protective over), scared of Gloria, and stressed over the impending tragedy of Joyce, I’m beginning to feel emotionally wrung by these episodes in a way I haven’t felt since S2. Which is a really great thing. This show has hit a sweet spot for me again.


  24. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on September 30, 2010.]

    “I’m amazed I even felt a tiny bit sad for her when she was looking out her window, all lonesome, for the cobra demon to return.” Yeah, I noticed that too. She looks like a concerned parent waiting for her child to come home.


  25. [Note: Dimitri posted this comment on November 8, 2010.]

    I think that the shot where Joyce gets a CAT-scan was beautifully shot. I love that they brought Sandy from Doppelgangland back!


  26. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on November 18, 2010.]

    A hit and miss episode but much better than the following one.


    * No one knowing who Glory is and she comes in, buys stuff and leaves and then Giles continues his speech.

    * Anya calling Giles stupid.


    * All the pandering to Glory.

    * Spike is standing in direct sunlight while in Buffy’s room and nothing happens. In ‘Normal Again’ he is afraid of the streaming light.

    * Spike is way too tanned for a vampire.

    * The giant snake moves too quick that Buffy would never catch it.


  27. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 6, 2011.]

    SPIKE:’slayer musk…it’s bitter and agravating!’-I love the sweater sniffing. Apparantly:- ‘it’s a predator thing, nothing wrong with it’,i’m not convinced! Although I have to say spike wouldn’t be stealing my panties, I’d give them over willingly. Especially if he’d like to remove them himself. I’m not going to go any further into that fantasy as i’m not sure if there’s rules regarding adult content (??? Mike).

    Anya is hilarious and brilliant as always. Glory is annoying but that is suitable for her character.

    It’s going to sound callous but the joyce bits of this episode bore me. I don’t know if it’s the writing. Can’t quite pin-point it. I feel for buffy but just find the hospital scenes boring in this particular episode.

    The episode doesn’t feel cohesive(think that’s the right word) to me, the seperate plot things going on don’t seem like they should be in the same episode. not so much because of theme but certain things feel rushed, others stretched out and it makes this episode seem much more like edited tv (which i know it is of corse) than a day (or few days) in the characters lives like i am used to from BtVS, and therefore expect better.

    There are some subtle but interestic character developments: e.g. Anya semming to become a bit more understanding of tact and timing when she, albeit after some serious hinting by the gang, realises that it’s better that buffy isn’t made aware of giles massive blunder in selling glory ‘bad mojo’ stuff as she is already going through enough. It’s too late by then but this, although she still has a long way to go, is a big step forward from when she had no sense of manners, timing, tact etc at all.

    Also Tara seems more and more integrated into the group and is often helpful with insight and knowledge when the scoobies are doing research.

    Giles has finally found something that he enjoys, makes him money, fits into his helping buffy and is a great place for the gang to hang out. This is an even more suitable situation than the school library provided, and well done writers for finding something else that fullfilled these areas.

    Overall the episode does have some really great moments but doesn’t quite fit together. Before considering it so carefully i would have given it a lower grade but for how good the good bits are, now that I’ve read the review and comments here and written my own I agree with the ‘B’ rating.


  28. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on May 6, 2011.]

    @deadlego: While there are no established limits on the kind of content allowable on the site, a good general guideline to follow is to keep the discussion related to the review and the episode as much as possible. If a more graphic depiction of events is helpful in getting a point across, then by all means go for it. Otherwise I think it’s probably best to leave it for a blog (or perhaps the forum). πŸ™‚


  29. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on May 9, 2011.]

    I was mostly joking about putting the more graphic description! It was very off topic. But i did want to know the answer to the question, so thank you. I’m always very aware that younger people may be reading and really don’t want to offend anyone but in S6 some very adult themes are coming up so I guess I wanted to know if i’m free to explore those (of course in relation to your review and not in relation to my own fantasies!!!). Thanks.


  30. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 12, 2011.]

    I think that anyone willing to take the time to read and understand the reviews on this site is mature enough not to be freaked out by a discussion of human sexuality and how it is treated on the show.

    That said, there -is- such a thing as “over-sharing” and “too much information.” So, yeah.


  31. [Note: PippaHall posted this comment on August 4, 2011.]

    It was in this episode that my dad [who sometimes watched Buffy with me] said about Glory that he found her strange but sort of likeable!

    I couldn’t feel sorry for Riley. That sequence that shows poor Joyce being told about her tumour and with Buffy being there for her in the background was so sad…and it was immediately intercut with Riley being an idiot and messing around with that vampire. Just made me dislike him.

    Also about Buffy needing a monster in her man – I don’t really see where that comes from. She had feelings for Angel well before she knew he was a vampire and although he was mysterious at first, he was clearly on the side on the good guys.

    Most of her relationship with [souled] Angel was the two of them fighting evil, not about him being a monster.


  32. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 19, 2012.]

    PippaHall, Buffy may or may not really need a monster in her man. The important point is that this is a weakness or fear that Riley has that Spike exploits, as is his wont.

    There are a lot of really interesting comments here about the Buffy-Riley relationship. I agree more with the review and the first four comments than with comments that came later, but am really interested to see how others interpret these issues. To add my own thoughts:

    > One of the most interesting things about Riley is that he does have a predisposition to want to take care of his woman in a good patriarchal hegemony-sanctioned way, but that he really does love Buffy–who he knows is clearly superior to him. In this process, he finds himself having to deal with his feelings of inadequacy, and, for a little while, he not only tries to but succeeds! He’s falling apart by this point in the series, but he held on for a long time, and that was really interesting. I like to think that he’s able to be happy with Sam later not because he’s stronger than she is, but because of personal growth that happens during his relationship with Buffy.

    > Riley should speak up somewhere in here. He literally keeps telling Buffy that everything is fine, he’s fine, whatever she needs is fine. This is intensely problematic because it is not true.

    > I really feel for Riley on the subject of intense love. I am much more of a Riley than an Angel, and so I understand where he’s coming from when he feels like he’s missing out or failing or something when Buffy doesn’t have an insanity over him like she did over Angel. But he really misses the mark in how he responds.

    > I am very upset by the writing in the early part of this episode. Buffy never says, “Thank you,” to Riley, even early in the episode when she normally would (and in fact does say it to Ben!). By the end of the episode she’s so shaken that she’s not thanking anyone, and is as terse as she gets outside of Helpless with Giles; in that context being rude to Riley at the end of the episode is fine (and Riley looks like a jerk for being offended). But one of the lovely things about Buffy is how gorgeous SMG is when she says, “Thank you.” Wait, no, I meant to say, how gracious she is and how often she takes the time to thank the people helping her. It feels out of character to me for her not to thank Riley when he shows up at the hospital the first time, and when he takes Dawn off her hands (ostensibly to school, but, sweetly, to the park). I think Riley’s struggles would be just as compelling if she expressed gratitude, and it is more in-character for her to do so; ergo, I am irritated.

    > Buffy has her own faults in this relationship, but I think they’re actually focus-related, not love-related. She’s really focused on slaying right now, and assuming that everything’s cool with Riley. He keeps telling her that everything’s cool, which makes it easy for her to ignore the fact that she’s not keeping dates with him or doing the other small things in front of him that make it clear she loves him. (Remember, she does love him, and will drop everything to save him when his heart’s going to give out.) But even though she’s got a lot on her plate, she’s coasting in this relationship more than we can condone.

    A couple of non-B/R thoughts:

    >> MikeJer, I feel like I have to concede your S3 safety argument. Jason, 24, noted that he hasn’t felt this emotionally wrung since S2, and I realized that I haven’t either. I find S3 really powerful and really hard, and I think there’s a lot to learn from it, but S5 has been ripping at my guts in good old S2 fashion. I concede.

    >> Can I get a shout out for Kristine Sutherland? I think she’s amazing. When she’s sick she reminds me of how my mother looks and behaves when she’s sick, even though they normally don’t look much alike. KS contributes so much to the emotional weight of this season.


  33. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 20, 2012.]

    Nice observations there, Less newt. The one thing I might not quite agree with is Buffy not saying “thank you” being OOC. The way I see it, Buffy has never in her life been confronted with the kind of fear that is a serious illness to someone she is very close to — a non-supernatural threat that she cannot fight. When thrown into an unfamiliar and scary situation, it’s easy to have different aspects of your personality seep out that you didn’t even know were there. For me, it fits within reason that Buffy would largely drop the pleasantries in this kind of situation. But I agree it isn’t normally like Buffy to do that.

    Oh, and I totally agree with you on Kristine Sutherland’s acting. She puts in a real warm, genuine performance during this season, and adds to just how painful it all is.

    On S3: πŸ˜‰


  34. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 20, 2012.]

    MikeJer, I re-read what I wrote, and I might not have been entirely clear; by the end of the episode, I definitely agree with you about Buffy dropping the pleasantries being understandable, in-character, and a natural response to her mother’s natural illness. It makes sense that she refuses to cry on Riley’s shoulder in the hallway, and walks away abruptly.

    Early in the episode, though, there are two in-hospital moments where she also abruptly walks away from Riley (the first when he first shows up, and the second when she leaves to find Giles), and in between she genuinely thanks Ben. It’s this contrast which I find hard to swallow.

    I just re-watched her conversation with Giles on the phone after Glory beats her up, and I was wrong: Buffy’s actually not very terse with Giles, and even thanks him in the middle when he says they’ll take care of Dawn until she gets to the Magic Box. She hangs up more abruptly than usual, but this feels natural. Since this conversation takes place in the middle of the third of four acts of the episode, I have a hard time seeing her first and second act behavior with Riley as plausible. I know people are not always consistent, but it’s like she’s going out of her way to slight Riley and no one else.


  35. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 20, 2012.]

    Well, with Giles, she’s probably closer to him (in many ways) than she is to Riley this season, what with all the intense new training. As for Ben, he’s at the hospital and is somewhat involved with helping her mom, something Riley unfortunately can’t do. This all leaves Riley the odd man out, which is compounded by the possibility that Buffy really isn’t as invested in him and he is in her. In Buffy’s world, with everything happening (unknown mom illness, protecting Dawn, Glory), her lowest priority is going to feel the brunt of that occupation, and that’s unfortunately Riley.

    I get what you’re saying, and I think it’s certainly open for discussion, but I guess it just doesn’t feel OOC to me. I can rationalize it too easily. πŸ™‚


  36. [Note: Less newt posted this comment on August 20, 2012.]

    Well, you definitely rationalize it well. πŸ™‚ It feels off to me, but I can see how it does not to you. Thanks for indulging!


  37. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on December 23, 2012.]

    A couple of random observations.I think Glory’s behavior can be explained that she is this great incorporeal being stuffed into a physical body. We all know about the problems this causes her mental state. But there is more to it than that. Glory is used to operating directly on reality using her will. Despite her enormous physical strength, she can no longer do this- no more lightening bolts – and frankly 25 years is probably too short a time for her to adjust. Recall that she only became able to emerge from Ben in the not too distant past.In a way this explanation feeds directly into some important themes in the series. In the mortal world the power to act on matter at a distannce is largely forbidden. That is why magic is so dangerous. It is also why there are no demons who can use energy blasts etc., and the reason that most of the great ones were banished. As a result, even the great demons are forced to use physical bodies when they manifest in this world – witness the First which cannot directly act on physical matter. The catch is that no matter how strong they are they still are bound by the laws of physics. Ergo Buffy may have the strength of many throng men, but she still weighs 100 lbs. So when caught off guard or distracted she can be beaten even by a lowly vamp. Remember that real demons are of great size. The ones in the series are for the most part hybrids. Giles makes this point in season 1 and Anya in season 3. Had thenshowmhad a larger budget this point might hav been more clearly made – but whedon simply couldn’t afford to show great demons in the show. Contrast what Rumiko Takehashi does Inuyasha, a show that bear striking, almost eerie similarities to Buffy.


  38. [Note: ambiepooch posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    In my opinion the writers did a very bad job in explaining, or perhaps exploring, Rileys issues. This single-handedly accounted for my huge annoyance with his character in S5 and subsequent delight when he left on his helicopter. Its not that his behaviour is OOC, it is simply hardly human! How is it possible that he is not able to simply ‘be there’ for Buffy when she is clearly going through a very difficult time. I understand that he wants to feel needed, however his behaviour general makes me feel angry that he cant give Buffy the time and space she needs to take care of her family. Also Buffy is just as insular with the rest of the Scoobies, appearing regularly at the hospital with just Dawn and her Mom, however no one else reacts the way Riley does. His behaviour reminds me of Pete in Beauty and the Beasts (S3 x 04), where without feeling the centre of someones world, his own world crumbles. Instead of turning into a monster he becomes a willing meal for vampire, which I guess is his version of a monster.

    I love S5 and would categorise it as my favourite. I love Glory as the big bad however I agree that she never really got to stetch her legs enough.


  39. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on December 29, 2012.]

    Wow, I can honestly say that I had never considered that Riley could be a more passive version of Pete, but now I can’t get that out of my head. Nice!


  40. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on July 13, 2014.]

    Wow. Most of the comments have already talked on and on about the Buffy/Riley pair so I’m not wanting to add to the discussion. I simply think that Buffy and Riley are two very different people who just happened to cross paths and explore a relationship. They’re just too incompatible to work. She’s tiny, he’s extremely tall and overly large. He’s this corn fed Iowa boy who wants to be the stronger counterpart in the relationship while Buffy is clearly an independent, strong (emphasis on strong) young woman who doesn’t need to be coddled. Not to mention that I think that at this stage in her life, she just had too much on her plate to deal with to even begin to worry about a love life. Thus, I think their split was natural and I’d seen it coming from a mile away.

    This was an okay episode. The juxtaposition of the ridiculous snake monster with Buffy’s depressing home life just didn’t work for me. Buffy’s hospital scenes were all very sad, and then the terrible CGI effects and the snake monster come along and its laughable, but not in a good way. Ergh.

    Moving on to the major plot point… I like Glory. I like her impatience and her over-the-top amoral glee; in fact, I’m enjoying the whole Glory/Dawn/monks thing a lot more than last year’s Initiative plot. I always liked the psychopathic crazy girl vibe I got from her. Even if she can be a tad bit annoying sometimes, but that works in her favour because I think her character was supposed to be that way. Glory and her minion Dreg were a hoot (“I grovel like a bug, most tingly and wonderful Glorificus”)

    Spike stealing Buffy’s panties. Now, I know I should find that creepy, but I excuse a lot of his actions when he was soulless and a vampire. Also, it’s hilarious and hey, what girl would mind someone as hot as him stealing from our underwear drawer? Not me. πŸ˜‰ Moving on before I start to lose all train of thought, Spike, being the perceptive supernatural creature that he is, went right for the jugular when he told Riley that Buffy likes her men dark and bumpy; after what happened last year with Angel, Riley has to believe it. Spike got him a second time, too, because how can Riley deal with the fact that Buffy told Spike about Joyce’s illness and not him? And then Dawn came along with the crowning blow: “She doesn’t get all worked up like that over you.” I actually feel for Riley a little bit here, but at the same time, I kinda find it ridiculous that he expects more from Buffy when she’s clearly worked up over more important issues.

    Riley’s whole world is centred around Buffy right now, and that’s just never a good thing. One should never, ever, centre their existence over someone else. Lastly, loved Glory walking in on the Scoobies and Giles smiling at her all chirpy-like and handing her the bag that almost led to Dawn’s doom. It reminds me of when Adam helped the Scoobies in S4 that one time without the Scoobies realizing it. It’s these little things that make me adore this show so much. Overall, I agree with your score. Great review. πŸ™‚


  41. [Note: AmyH posted this comment on August 23, 2014.]

    I have a minor nitpick about the Joyce/illness/CT scan – it’s completely unrealistic. CT scans take minutes, even in 2001, and you certainly wouldn’t be in hospital just to have one. I should know, having had cancer in 2001. The writers are so good, I don’t understand how someone failed the research so badly. That being said, they’ve captured everything else about it perfectly. The impotence in the face of major illness, both for Joyce and the girls. Buffy is so used to taking charge and succeeding, sometimes it seems by her will alone. It’s striking to me that both Joyce’s cancer and Glory’s strength render the slayer’s physical strength useless, and both battles are hard fought and end in death. They parallel each other, IMHO. Riley’s arc does as well.


  42. [Note: Nix posted this comment on September 11, 2014.]

    AmyH, maybe this is UK-specific, but X-rays take minutes, too, and I’ve certainly been in hospital just to have one of those. If you need imaging before they can tell what to do, you’ll go in just for that: in fact I’ve even been referred from one hospital to another one fifty miles away with a better X-ray machine just for one of those. (Besides, she didn’t end up being in just for that: she had exploratory surgery!)

    I made the mistake of watching the Joyce-centric episodes of S5 while my mother was in surgery. I thought it might help. It, uh, really didn’t. (Her cancer op went very much better than Joyce’s, but I couldn’t know that at the time: all I could see was “20% chance of death on the table”.)


  43. [Note: lolo posted this comment on February 18, 2015.]

    Wasn’t Riley a teacher’s assistant for a psychology class? If he is/was a psych major he didn’t learn much about communicating with other people. To me that is the big issue….tell people what you want and need, and then see if those people can meet your needs. Buffy is an experienced Slayer but she is still a young woman, and may not understand what is necessary for a mature relationship, and may not even want that kind of relationship.

    That being said, I think Buffy likes a little bit of monster in her men because it gives them strength of some sort from within. Riley’s strength comes from external sources: work, his friends, and Buffy. It’s not the same kind of confidence and strength that Angel has, or even Spike for that matter.


  44. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on March 24, 2015.]

    “While “Shadow” is no “Fool for Love” (5×07)”…
    I love your critics, but this affirmation bugs me.
    Firstable, indeed “Shadow” is no “Fool for love ” : they’re two totally different episodes. One is mythology-focused, the other one revolves around the family and their bonds – and, actually, around so much more. That’s my second point. I tend to find this episode much more interesting than the 5×07. “Fool for love” was kind of mechanical : here is Spike, he’s sad, he meets Drusilla, he kills a slayer, and an other… It’s like a documentary about Spike’s old life, even if it’s really well-written, etertaining and large in terms of mythology, like I said before. “Shadow” is really more subtle, visually powerful, with an incredible character developpement and a really good “utilisation” of everyone ; they all have a role to play, even Riley who was kind of annoying since the beginning of the season (not that he was better before but, hey, you know what I mean). Anyway, I juste wanted to tell you, people, that I would have given this episode a A+, and the “Spike on” a B. But it’s only my opinion.

    (By the way, I hope my English is good enough ; I rarely have the occasion to write down in this exciting language of yours πŸ™‚


  45. [Note: Poltargyst posted this comment on January 12, 2017.]

    Lot of criticism of Riley here, but I sympathize with him. He just wants to be there for Buffy, but she’s not letting him into any part of her life. I do wish that he handled it better, but Buffy’s not without fault here.

    Question: how did the snake monster make it from the zoo to the church in broad daylight? I mean after this much time of living on the Hellmouth the residents of Sunnydale are probably pretty jaded to supernatural things, but I’d think the sight of a giant snake monster slithering down the sidewalk in broad daylight might attract some notice.


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